Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sherryl Clark, Children's Author in The Writer's Studio

Sherryl Clark is a widely-read and loved children's / YA author and expert on all things 'pirate' ('Arrr me pretties' style, rather than illegal downloads.) Australian kids love her books like The Littlest Pirate, Our Australian Girl - Rose and Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!). Here, you can sneak inside Sherryl's writing space and see where her characters are born.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I couldn't begin to list all the different places I wrote Pirate X - at home, the library, out the back in our old bungalow - it was an 11 year project so I think I have blanked out on most of it! But the Rose series (Our Australian Girl) was mostly written at my kitchen table, because my office space at home is such a huge mess; I cannot even walk around in it, let alone write. I was going to give you a photo of it but it's too embarrassing! I try to write on my laptop so I will stay off the internet, which means a lot of running in and out of the "computer room" to check historical details. Yes, we have a computer room - this is the advantage of a child no longer living at home. Way too much space to fill up with books and tables and boxes and stuff. I do keep trying to tidy up, but sadly within a week it's back to where it was before.
Sherryl's Writing Space 'Up at the Bush House'
I do need a space with silence. And a window is good. I have just arranged to hire an office occasionally when I really need to get away from home and my retired husband, but it has no window so I'm not sure how that will go. I'll try anything that helps! I envy people who have these wonderful writing rooms with shelves of books and a nice desk. I have no excuse for not having one apart from being a terrible hoarder.

Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
My current second writing space (up in the bush) is one I have tried to make "inspiring" because someone gave me a little fountain for Christmas, and I got some of my France photos made up and bought a bookcase. But I work on several different things at a time usually, or at least one book, one lot of ideas and some poems, so the space can be anywhere. Only the inside of my head transforms as I imagine myself into the character's head or the setting. Closing my eyes works wonders.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It's only evolved in that I've tried lots of different options. I always come back to the kitchen table, maybe because I can see outside and I need that in some way. A sense of space. What has changed is having my husband at home, which has been very difficult. I have resorted to writing in cafes, where I'm able to block out the noise without any trouble. I did try the library quiet room with laptop power outlets but other people kept distracting me. The hired office might be the new escape option.
Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I don't because I work three days a week. I teach, so at different times I either have a lot of class prep to do, or workshopping to read and comment on, or a huge pile of assignments to mark, and that kills first draft writing for me. I tend to write madly during holiday breaks, and the rest of the time I try to write on weekends, and on days when I'm not at work, I go to the cafe. So it's squeezed in all over the place. Revision is not so intensive so is easier to make time for, and do at home. I would love to write full-time, if I could afford it, because then it's not just about writing - it's about having time to read, dream and imagine, and come up with new ideas, and put all of my energy and creativity into writing instead of other things. It's one of my goals - to write full-time - I won't say long-term goal because that makes it seem unattainable!!
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
No rituals. I just say, "Right, enough time-wasting. Sit down and get stuck in, or you'll be sorry!" Maybe my ritual involves threatening myself? But I guess going to the cafe has become a bit of a ritual - the coffee, the good bench table, the notebook and pen. It does get me started.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Change the World in Five Minutes Hits 100,000 Youtube Views

Our short film, Change the World in Five Minutes Every Day at School, funded by SBS Television and inspired by We Are What We Do has just hit 100,000 views on Youtube! There has been such a great response to the vid from children and teachers all over the world. Last week I Skyped a very cool bunch of kids in Texas who had made their own video response (below).
And here they are in the Skype session...
Texan students in our Change the World Skype session.
And, as some of you will know, we recently made our 3-minute Stubbies World Change Challenge video (below). Stubbies Schoolwear have committed $10,000 to the building of a school library for kids in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest nations. We are looking to inspire primary school classes everywhere to raise the remaining $10,000 for the library and the kids in the vid below have certainly done their bit. If you'd like to help us build the library through the wonderful charity Room to Read, there's more info and a comprehensive how-to pack at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

LA Times Festival of Books

I spent last weekend at LA Times Festival of Books, University of Southern California, doing a panel with some great writers, a couple of signings and seeing amazing kids' and YA authors speak. Here are some pics and a few words, sharing my highlights of the fest, including Judy Blume, John Green, Dame Julie Andrews, Jeff Kinney, Libba Bray, Pete Hautman, John Scalzi, Ransom Riggs and this year's Newbery-winner Jack Gantos.

Me with Kris from Once Upon a Time Bookstore who teamed with Simon & Schuster to sell our books at the fest, and middle-grade author Shawn Thomas Odyssey who wowed the crowd on the kids' stage, bringing his book, The Wizard of Dark Street alive with hip-hop, dancing and magic.
Highlights of the fest for me were:

Judy Blume in the Bovard auditorium (the building pictured above). Here are a couple of tweets from the session:
* 'Wow. I'm watching  talking Superfudge & Sheila the Great . A childhood author-hero of mine 

* 'If you want your child to read a particular book, tell them they're not old enough for it yet.' -  

John Green in conversation with Lev Grossman was also fantastic in the Bovard. He is an intelligent and generous man and you could feel the strength of the support  that he has built over the past few years through his books, Youtube, and Nerdfighters. If you don't know Green's books, check them out. Here is a tweeted highlight:

* '2 Writing Tips From John Green   : 1. Read really broadly across genres. 2. In editing, kill what you love'

Jeff Kinney (Wimpy Kid) on the Children's Stage
My tweet from the Kinney session:

* 'Jeff Kinney says he wasn't a great cartoonist. He started drawing like a kid so people would think he drew that way on purpose.'
The crowd at the children's stage.

Me with my fellow panellists, YA authors Cecil Castellucci (Canadian), Abby MacDonald (British) and Aaron Karo (Rhymes with J-Lo. The lone American). We had a funny discussion on Humour and Hormones on the YA Stage. Lots of laughs and an appreciative audience under a perfect So-Cal blue sky.
The most comprehensively yarn-bombed post I have ever seen.
Dame Julie Andrews on the children's stage.
Tweet from Julie Andrews session:
* 'Julie Andrews rockin the house   - anecdotes on Walt Disney & the challenges of spinning around in a field on a mountain-top with helicopter overhead.

A couple of other writing tips and thoughts I tweeted during the fest:
* 'World-Building: John  warns not to let the World of your fiction overwhelm the story. 

'The hive mind is in ascendance.'- Pete Hautman. 

* 'Inspiring moment : Audience member 's parents had 3rd grade education. She says 's books inspired her [and her sister] to go to college.

I wound down from the fest in style with my favourite ice cream on the planet: Ben & Jerry's New York Super-Fudge Chunk. 
Very soon I'll blog the rest of my LA tour.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

James Riley, Children's Author : The Writer's Studio

LA children's author James Riley (Half Upon a Time and the brand new sequel, Twice Upon a Time) says that he was voted most likely never to write a book in high school. Here, he shares his writing space and talks botany, card tricks, day jobs and the ancient art of (dis) organisation.

Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I write everything in the same place, which is wherever my laptop is. But given that my laptop is usually on my desk (see the horribly messy photo), that's my go-to spot.

I'm not exactly one for organization in my space, as you can guess. But I'll be honest, I'm not really writing in the physical space anyway ... I'm entirely in my head, when it's going well, imagining the writing as it goes. When it's not going well, I'm in a place with a lot of fire and tiny little devils with pitchforks. By which I mean Los Angeles.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you 'get into character' at all?
My space gets transformed by my life, since my desk is where I drop ... everything. Whatever happens to be going on at the moment ends up living for far too long in that spot, so to transform it book by book would involve transforming my whole life. Instead, I let my life transform the book, or something else that sounds very deep and philosophical.

How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing books?
A lot more copyedits from my editor, for one. For another ... I'm not sure it has. I just can't take myself seriously enough to create any kind of specific writer's desk, made from timbers of the steamboat Mark Twain worked on. THAT, I use for a dining room table.

Basically, my space evolves as needed, meaning if I'm writing and something gets in my way, off it goes. Or if I need a book for reference, I grab it, leave it on my desk, and notice it weeks later, wondering what possible use I could have for 18th Century Antarctic Botany. Quite the page-turner, by the way.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
Usually around 9-10PM, what I call "The Magic Hour," because I also do card tricks. Pick a card! Is it ... the Eight of Spades? No? I can keep trying ...
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
My morning ritual involves a day job, unfortunately. Also, showering, because people like good hygiene. But I'm going to start sharpening giant peaches in Roald Dahl's name from now on, since I already have the "James" part covered!

As for settling my mind ... I'm not sure I would even know where to start. That's how I hear my characters ... and the other, less beneficial voices. Those usually come in through what I call a phone, and for some reason, they never tell me what they're thinking in third person. They're selfish that way.

Thanks James. Next week, legendary children's author Sherryl Clark will be in The Writer's Studio.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stubbies World Change Challenge

Join our world change challenge and help build a school library for kids in Cambodia.

I have just finished shooting a 3-minute video with year 5/6 students at Ocean Shores Public School as they attempted to raise $500 in a single day for Room to Read, an extraordinary charity that has built 13,000 libraries in the developing world in 11 years.
A library in Cambodia fitted out with lots of local language books costs $20,000. Stubbies Schoolwear have generously donated $10,000 toward the building of our library, leaving school classes around the country with $10,000 to raise by July. And, with any luck, we might even raise more!

I would LOVE you to help us achieve this goal. If you like the video, please share it throughout your social media empire. The step-by-step guide to getting involved in this major fundraising effort is at

Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries and, as the Room to Readers say, World Change Starts With Educated Children.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Martin Chatterton, Children's Author in The Writer's Studio

Martin Chatterton is an accomplished children’s author, designer and illustrator. His books are published in the USA, China, Finland, Canada, Australia and Spain. Chatterton’s amusing bio states that ‘in 2008 his book The Brain Finds A Leg was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award which, sadly for him and Australia, he failed to win. On the plus side, Morris Iemma lost his job soon after. Shockingly Chatterton also failed to win the Salford Children’s Book Award (2005), the Angus Book Award (2006), and has never been awarded the Astrid Lindgren prize. He is however the current holder of the prestigious Bangalow Sixes Golden Boot.’ Here, peek inside his writing space.

Where did you write your latest book?
I have just completed two books for Random House; one called 'Mort' which is a gothic comedy thriller about a 10,000 year old boy (and which I also illustrated) and one called 'Helter Skelter’ which is my debut crime novel and isn’t funny in any way. Both books were written here - mostly - in Lennox Head sitting at the same computer I’m writing this on. My office/studio looks out onto my garden and is a quiet relaxed space.

How important to you is the space in which you write?
I’ve written everywhere - in hotels, on planes, on the beach - but being in the calm surroundings of my own studio is where I work best. It’s not so much the physical details as having a calm, cool place to concentrate. The hardest thing is when the house is busy (which is quite often). Usually it’s just me and the dog sitting in silence all day. I’ve been working for twenty five years and always feel that there’s this ‘perfect’ studio I should have out there somewhere! Sometimes I’ve been at other writer’s or illustrators places and been green with envy at how funky, cool or desirable their working environments are; Laurence Anholt’s in Lyme Regis is particularly wonderful! As I typed that last sentence the arm fell off my kidding, I need a new one.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book?
No, not really. As I’m an illustrator and graphic designer as well as an author, I often have a number of projects on the go at any one time. The only transformation is switching from the keyboard to the drawing table or lightbox. Quite often the three disciplines overlap and I write, illustrate and design the whole book, switching across from one aspect of the project to another.

Do you 'get into character' at all?
On a really good streak, and when I’m really into the story, I find that the characters start helping me out. By this I mean that I am so close to them that I start to think a little like they do. I think writing is a little bit like acting in that way - not that I’m an actor.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
The essential elements haven’t changed much. I still use a computer (I’m not old enough to have ever used a typewriter or even a word-processor), still have a dog lying around the place, still like to have silence when I’m writing - music or radio when I’m drawing.

Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I’ve always been a freelancer so have evolved a certain amount of discipline about the hours. I try to clock on around 9 and off around 5 to pretend I have a proper job. Obviously this oscillates wildly depending on the project and the proximity of the deadline. At the moment I probably have too many spinning plates so I’m working longer hours.
Martin's latest series for children, Mort (Random House Australia)
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
I tend, like many writers, to have a whole series of prevarication techniques before I start. This includes, but isn’t restricted to; answering emails, checking Facebook, reading the BBC football site, walking the dog, getting a coffee from the bakery, tidying my desk. Once all of these are done I can start for, oh, maybe an hour before finding I absolutely have to check on something else.

This Writer’s Studio post was first published in Northerly, the magazine of the Northern Rivers Writers' Centre.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


There is true joy in ignoring everything else you need to do and just writing for an entire day. This is me at my dining table where I have spent today. A rare shot when the table isn't laden with thousands of discarded items.

And, below, a puzzle we finished over Easter after many previously abandoned attempts.
Pics on this post by Amber Melody. ;-)
That is all. A new Writer's Studio post up very soon and, next week, updates from festival and events in LA.
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